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Family Campout Tips and Checklist

El Capitan at Yosemite National Park

Photo: El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

While I love living in our time period and the technology that we are blessed to have I feel it refreshing to escape the fast paced world of video games and internet to reconnect with nature. I feel like a day hiking in a glorious place like Yosemite resets my mind and puts everything back into a clearer perspective. Pricey decorations, the internet, cell phones, shopping and all other modern day distractions are of no importance. There is a brilliant ecosystem out there that when righteously tapped into is the best $20 stress medication one can buy.

When my siblings and I were growing up my parents took us on plenty of camping trips. It was common practice if we traveled anywhere we mainly camped. Many times that was the only way we could afford to take a family of seven to Disney World. We either pitched our tent in the campgrounds or camped out on my Aunt Sandra’s family room floor. My mom’s handy-dandy electric frying pan filled our bellies with pancakes and bacon, egg sandwiches, spaghetti and other delicious meals. Our camping trips were not as primitive as one day I hope ours will become. When the kids are older my ultimate goal is to take them on a week wilderness hike every summer.

I will confess camping with young children as inquisitive as mine may not seem like a vacation at the time as we scurry them away from the poison ivy, save them from dropping of a cliff or from burning themselves in the fire. When I see the light of childhood burning brightly in their eyes I recognize that this experience is not about me. They are free to explore, to leap from rock to rock, play hide and seek in caves, splash in a stream and even watch raccoons at 2:00 AM. They can get dirty and sticky and it is ok.

Camping with active little children or teenagers who think the whole trip is lame can be daunting. If you are new to camping or have a high anxiety level personality start out simple. Set up camp in the back yard or just plan on camping for the day. I know it sounds like a lot of work to set up a tent that morning and take it down that night. The first reason for doing this is if things are going well everything is already set up for the night. Secondly if you are easily overwhelmed the practice will help you become more comfortable and over time the children will learn what is expected of them. Also you will want to plan activities to keep the kids busy such as going on a hike, swimming, playing games, a bike ride, drawing or writing. Lastly be prepared to stay up late. Light a camp fire, roast some marshmallows and tell fun happy stories or sing songs together.

For a successful camping trip bring the necessities.

  • Tent or camper
  • Screened arbor (optional but very nice to keep the bugs away while eating and relaxing).
  • Tarp large enough to lay under the tent (to keep water at bay)
  • Sleeping bags (Choose synthetic over the bulky cotton. If your bag gets wet the synthetic will dry faster.)
  • Camp pillows
  • A portable inflatable pad or inflatable mattress
  • Portable Chairs (optional)


  • Always have plenty of water to drink
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Lantern and Fuel
  • Lighter or matches
  • First Aide kit (Calamine lotion, peroxide, baking soda (for stings), band-aides, gauze, Neosporin, tweezers, needle, thread, Dermabond, ace bandage, ice pack, Ibuprofen, eye drops, burn ointment).
  • Rope or twine
  • A bucket for cleaning and to help douse a fire
  • Trash bags
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Water filtration kit (if drinkable tap water is not available)
  • Citronella candle (optional)
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun screen
  • Toilet paper


  • Charcoal with fluid or firewood (check site regulations before starting a fire)
  • Camping stove with extra fuel or Dutch oven.
  • Pots and pans if using a grill or stove.
  • Skewers or tin foil if cooking over a fire.
  • Pot Holders
  • Can and bottle opener (if needed)
  • Cooking utensils- spatula, serving spoons, tongs, knives, measuring cups (depending on your menu)
  • Food storage containers (bear canisters or food lockers are required in areas where bears are present)
  • Mess kit for each person (or paper serveware)
  • Water canteens or bottles
  • Cooler with ice (to store perishables)
  • Dish detergent (if rural camping use sand and water from a stream if the water is not contaminated. Make sure to dry eating utensils thoroughly in the sun before using to kill any water born bacteria)
  • Hand towels
  • Oil

Your menu will depend on the area you are camping in. If you plan on hiking in a cooler with perishable food is not a good idea. Be aware that some camp sites do not have tap water or electricity. Plan accordingly.
Search the following websites for yummy enticing meal ideas: Camping Recipes, One Pan Wonders, Camping Blogger, Papa Dutch, Gluten Free Camping, Simple Backpacking,

Some of our favorites include: Hot dogs, Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Potato and Meat packets (combine onions, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, celery, butter, spices, meat or beans. Wrap in heavy duty foil then cook using indirect heat), Grilled chicken breasts with roasted vegetables, Canned or fresh soup or stew, Fresh fruits, Fresh vegetables cut up, Cereal and milk, Eggs, Pancakes with Sausage or bacon, S’mores, Banana Packets (chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and chopped nuts stuffed into a banana with the peel still on. Wrap in foil and cook in indirect heat.) and Hot chocolate.


  • Pj’s
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
    • Extra change of clothes, socks and shoes
    • Light jack (it is always important to have a light jacket on hand in case of an emergency)
    • Bathing suit
    • Water shoes or sandals
    • Life Jacket (if needed)
    • Towels


    • Fishing poles, bucket, hooks and worms (check for licensing requirements)
    • Small backpack for hiking to carry supplies.
    • Books, camera, balls, frisbee, horseshoes, board games, cards, musical instruments, art supplies, notebook and pen and puzzles.

    1 thought on “Family Campout Tips and Checklist”

    • Great tips and checklist you got there… It is a sure help to new campers and to old campers as well. Nothing goes wrong with well prepared and complete listings. Thanks for the post.